Heinz's Report - September 03, 2003

Elk River Cruise-Chapter II

This report is by Kathy, our intrepid ducky boat organizer and took place on September 1, 2003

The morning was cool and clear with a hint of smoke on the air. After much travel up and down the Elk River the previous afternoon by car, between Sparwood and Elko, we made our decision where to put-in and take-out. Because of the extreme fire hazard many activities in the backwoods trails and on the mountain peaks had been curtailed for the long holiday weekend including certain river access points. We even requested an exemption by fax from the appropriate ministry offices which were open all weekend. Dave Richards of High Mountain River Adventures strongly advised changing our put-in to the Fernie north bridge and pull-out just before the tunnel to be sure of keeping within the Ministry guidelines for river access. We did not want to incur the $250.00 per person fine if caught getting in or out at the wrong location!

Our trip this time would be a continuation of our previous adventure on the Elk River from Fernie south to the tunnel. That trip was around 30 km and took over 7 hours. This time around we traveled 22 km and lasted 4.5 hours with a brutal finishing headwind.

We stuffed 4 duckies into Wade�s van and two canoes from Wade and Calgary Dave were added to our flotilla which headed out at around 9:30. Compared to the route north of Fernie, the river traffic was very light and quiet, unlike the noisy and busy highway traffic that was evident throughout our journey. This did not deter the abundance of wildlife we observed en route to our destination.

Prior to reaching the bottom of the resort there was one minor mishap with a member of our group getting snagged by a couple of good sized sweepers. Smartly waiting for help, firefighter Wade to the rescue, and we were all off and floating once again!

After a fairly easy going morning, repeating some of the territory that a few of us had floated in tubes earlier this summer, we passed the ongoing work at the ski resort roadside. Later as we passed under the Morrissey Bridge all of us noticed the abundance of effluent everywhere in the river. Not a good place to fall in and get a mouthful! We had a few super good rapids which everyone handled with ease and skill. We saw the first of two bears, a young 2-3 year old black, standing and clinging to a tree. He made haste once he heard our surprise and disappeared into the greenery. As we made our way alongside some of the residential part of the river off Cokato Road, we found a spot for a leisurely lunch and that�s when the wildlife sideshow really took flight.

Quite literally. An enormous bald eagle nest (we think) was poised high above and across the river from us and it was delightful listening to the very large juvenile eagle calling to another just up the river from us. In between bites of food and drink we studied the nest and watched waiting for one of the birds to take flight which occurred soon enough. An enormous wing span hovered above us and after a short stop, the second bird came to rest in the �nest� tree alongside the other. As we were finishing our lunch, much to our surprise, another black bear, on our side of the beach, came lumbering our way. We quickly donned our life jackets and threw our gear back into the boats and Mike decided to be a hero and picked up his plastic oar to defend us against the intruder. He must have finally caught wind of us, as he eventually turned and decided to practice his swimming skills. We all watched with wonder as he climbed aboard the rocky island across from us and meandered up its length before once again entering the water for the last bit of distance to the opposite shore. Boy, was that cool!

The rest of the journey went quickly and before long the river widened considerably and we were fighting a very strong headwind. If you stopped paddling for 10 seconds, your boat was going in reverse opposite to the pull of the strong current. We all gained a few more arm muscles over the next 40 minutes before reaching the calm waters of our final destination.

After fruit, fluids and loading up, the tired troupe dragged their tired bodies homeward. Some of us decided then to try and fit one more trip in before the end of the official summer, weather and conditions permitting. Maybe the white water rapids south of Elko?

Distance traveled - 21.8 km, Time - 4.5 hrs, Wildlife - 2 black bears, 2 juvenile bald eagles, ospreys, ducks, etc...

Till the next trip....

Heinz - heinzr@far.redtree.com

Calgary Dave and Ellen float on the amazing Elk River in front of FAR. The highway in the distance without cars for a brief moment on the busy Labour Day Monday.

Kathy contemplating the pastoral landscape on Cokato Road.

Ellen and Dave take flight in the rapids.

Nancy, coolly shots the rapids � as usual.

Mike showing off his paddling skills in the rapids.

Wade paddling his canoe solo through the rapids. Yup, He made it!

Our lunch guest decides to take the opposite shore after scaring the $%$%# out of us lumbering up the river on our side!

One of the two immature eagles looking down on our lunch. This is an immature eagle? Pretty big for a young fella!

Wade and Nancy at the end of the Lizard Range, just before the tunnel pullout.

Our troupe for the day relaxing just before our black furry visitor arrives on the scene.